Richard Rohr – The World, the Flesh and the Devil

Traditional Catholic moral teaching says there are three sources of evil—the world, the flesh and the devil. Dom Helder Camara, who was the holy and wise archbishop of Recife, Brazil, taught this in terms of “a spiral of violence” spiraling from the bottom up. “The world” (systemic evil) is at the root a lie, in the middle is “the flesh” (personal evil), and at the top is “the devil” (evil disguised as “good power” to enforce the first two).

Up to now in human history most people’s moral thinking has been overwhelmingly oriented around the personal evils of “the flesh.” There was not too much knowledge of the social foundations of evil behavior until very recently.

The Biblical Prophets of Judaism were the unique and inspired group who exposed all three sources of evil and it’s also why they have been largely ignored, as was Jesus, the greatest of the Jewish Prophets. They didn’t concentrate on the flesh, but on “the world” and what we will describe this week as “the devil,” which very often passes as good and necessary “evil.” You see what we are up against, and why evil continues to control so much of the human show.

Adapted from Spiral of Violence (CD/MP3)

Prayer: Open my mind to discern good and evil.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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